It’s well known that David Cameron voted against Jean-Claude Juncker and tried to persuade his EU colleagues to do the same. Thanks to today’s Mail on Sunday, we know exactly how forceful the Prime Minister was in warning and rebuking his fellow leaders. According to leaked reports, an angry Mr Cameron threw Herman Van Rompuy, outgoing EU chief, out of Downing Street following an argument over Juncker:
‘If it is to be Juncker, I insist on a formal vote,’ said Cameron
Mr Van Rompuy blinked: ‘I will decide how the vote is conducted.’
Mr Cameron: ‘You must guarantee there will be a proper vote.’
Mr Van Rompuy: ‘I have said I will decide that.’
Mr Cameron’s face flushed with frustration: ‘I don’t want you saying “anyone who agrees with David raise your hands?” after I have spoken. I want a vote, and the names recorded.’
Still, Mr Van Rompuy sat on the fence.
Mr Cameron finally snapped: ‘If you won’t give me that assurance, there is no point in continuing this meeting.’
Mr Van Rompuy glanced at his chief of staff, sitting next to him, then across to Mr Cameron, and finally at the floor.
The Prime Minister’s later exchange with his fellow EU leaders was no more cordial. Cameron warned they were making a grave mistake by backing Juncker, which would bring the EU into disrepute:
‘Some people are bringing the EU into disrepute by saying one thing in public and another in private. Let me tell you bluntly, you will regret this. Britain has a problem with Mr Juncker because of his federalist views. He does not mean anything to people in Britain. They don’t know him. How could they? He has never campaigned there’
‘This time it is our problem. But next time, it will be you. Anyone round this table who has a strong objection to an EU President will be trapped. By giving away the power of leaders to defend their national interests you, too, will be powerless to act
According to the Mail on Sunday’s explosive leak, the Prime Minister reportedly then took a ‘virtual tour’ of the EU countries and warned how Juncker would be bad news for each country. For Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, he said ‘our protection for you is taken for granted, but another president could disagree.’
He moved on to Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, where ‘we put your interests ahead of those of Russia, but what if a spitzenkandidat president thinks that trade deals with Russia are more important?’ Then ‘Greece has remained in the Eurozone, but what if a future president wants them out? They’d be stuck.’
And finally, Cameron warned his his fellow leaders they were reneging on the democratic ideals behind the EU:
‘The fundamental principle of the EU is the democratically elected leaders of the member states have the right to decide these issues. In making Mr Juncker president, you are going back on all of that. The Commission is becoming the creature of the parliament.’
Cameron’s warnings to his fellow EU leaders presaged what he said in the press conference afterwards — another rare example of a politician saying in public what he says in private. It’ll never catch on. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that Cameron’s stand isn’t an act of petulance; it’s a radical repositioning of British policy. It’s difficult to see how he can return to the acquiescent say-one-thing, do-another form of EU politics after knowing how he views his fellow leaders. So forceful are these words, they may constitute Cameron’s most important EU speech of the year.